Archive for the ‘Alpine’ Tag
Last week my baby started first grade. Which means that from the hours of 9:00 to 3:30 each day, all of my children are now in school. When a friend recently asked me how I felt about that I answered: “Euphoric and terrified at the same time.” Euphoric because I can finally focus on finishing my novel and getting it out there. Terrified for the very same reason.
I realized how scared I really was about this on the morning my kids started school. As soon as they were out the door, I jumped on my mountain bike and headed up to the foothills near our home. I was almost to the top of the trail when a large, tawny-colored animal crossed the path ahead of me and disappeared into the trees. It had only been about 30 feet in front of me, but with the bend in the trail I hadn’t gotten a good glimpse of it. Most likely it was a mule deer. They live in these hills, and come down from the mountains in small herds to devour any unprotected vegetable garden in their path. But as it hurried away into the scrub oak, I swear I saw a long TAIL. My brain screamed MOUNTAIN LION, and I turned my bike so quickly in the opposite direction that I hit my back wheel on a rock and got a flat tire.
I hurried out of the park as fast as I could, and took the paved road back home. Unfortunately, that road took me by the cemetery, and as I walked past, pushing my bike alongside me, I noticed the vultures that nest in our city cemetery circling overhead, their great dark wings hanging heavily against the sky. “If I were writing a story,” I thought. “The mountain lion and the vultures would make really potent symbols.” I continued to ponder this. “What,” I wondered, “would they represent?”
And of course, that is when it hit me: fear. My own fear. Of failure.
I had to laugh at myself then. And laughing gave me just enough courage to sit down and write, so as soon as I got home, I pulled out my computer and got to work. Now I’m struggling through. I have to admit, it is taking a LOT of chocolate. But I am looking fear in the face and I am doing it. I haven’t seen any more mountain lions slink past, and the vultures have stopped circling overhead. I found a quote recently that I need to blow up in ginormous writing so that I can remember it if a shadow passes above me, or something heavy moves in the trees. It is by Gordon B. Hinckley and it goes like this: ”You have not failed until you quit trying.”
If you drive up the road a bit from our home in Alpine, Utah, you can find the homestead of a pioneer legend, John R. Moyle. He was one of the first pioneers to settle this area, and the city has preserved parts of his original home in a quiet little park where you can visit and learn more about him.
His story was told by Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle of the LDS church, during a session of our general conference. Here is an excerpt:
“John R. Moyle lived in Alpine, Utah, about 22 miles as the crow flies to the Salt Lake Temple, where he was the chief superintendent of masonry during its construction. To make certain he was always at work by 8 o’clock, Brother Moyle would start walking about 2 A.M. on Monday mornings. He would finish his work week at 5 P.M. on Friday and then start the walk home, arriving there shortly before midnight. Each week he would repeat that schedule for the entire time he served on the construction of the temple.
Once when he was home on the weekend, one of his cows bolted during milking and kicked Brother Moyle in the leg, shattering the bone just below the knee. With no better medical help than they had in such rural circumstances, his family and friends took a door off the hinges and strapped him onto that makeshift operating table. They then took the bucksaw they had been using to cut branches from a nearby tree and amputated his leg just a few inches below the knee. When against all medical likelihood the leg finally started to heal, Brother Moyle took a piece of wood and carved an artificial leg. First he walked in the house. Then he walked around the yard. Finally he ventured out about his property. When he felt he could stand the pain, he strapped on his leg, walked the 22 miles to the Salt Lake Temple, climbed the scaffolding, and with a chisel in his hand hammered out the declaration “Holiness to the Lord.”
In honor of John Moyle, the youth of our local ward, or church congregation, made a trek last Saturday, walking from our home in Alpine to the Salt Lake City temple. I joined the youth, including my 12-year old son, Hunter, in the long walk to Salt Lake.
Saturday evening we drove home from a bike race up in Park City, happy, tired and covered in dirt. When we turned into our quiet town, we looked up to see this welcoming us home:
It arched, end to end, over Alpine. We followed its ribbon of color to see if we could find the elusive rainbow’s end. Of course we never could quite reach it, but the colors were so vivid, it really did seem we could reach out and catch hold of it.
Moments after coming home the sun broke out from behind the clouds and the rainbow was gone, but it left its imprint in my mind, along with these words by William Wordsworth:
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky;
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The lilacs are blooming, the creek that runs past our house is swelling with a fast-moving swirl of cold mountain run off, and the sounds from the schoolyard are growing more and more exuberant. Summer is coming.
Slowly. The air is still a little too cool. The list of to-do’s a little too long. But we are all taking a deep breath and holding it. Waiting for school to end and for lazy summer mornings to settle in; afternoons out of doors with popsicles melting in our hands; evenings surrounded by scrub oak, riding through the foothills on our bikes.
But before we say goodbye to the school year, I have to stop and reflect on how much my kids have grown since last August. The new shoes I bought them don’t fit anymore, the pants have long since worn through at the knee. My ten year old, especially, has grown to a whole new person – tall, smart, and confident. He has had a great year. I’ve saved a letter he wrote to me back in January, for his parent-teacher conference. I thought it said so much about his year as a fourth grader, and his thoughtfulness. It gives a sweet savor to the year’s end.
School is going great! I feel like I am improving in math and other subjects. Even though I am learning so much there are some things I need to improve, like staying on task and working more quickly.
At recess I mostly play tag but on Tuesday it was great to see you at the Book Fair!
Lunch is great too, thanks for making home lunch for me. It is funny what conversations we have at the lunch table.
I love the times when you come to teach writing!
The foothills near our home are covered in sagebrush and scrub oak. A trail system for bikers, joggers, and horses winds upward through the scraggly growth, sometimes exposing startled creatures that make their homes in the hills. I’ve seen mountain bluebirds, magpies, rabbits, bats, and have fortunately avoided the rattlesnakes other mountain bikers have come across. When I’m up in the hills alone, I tend to ride quickly, not looking around. The truth is, and I’ve never admitted this, I’m afraid that one of these times I’ll run into a cougar. I even bring my ipod when I ride alone, to distract me from thinking about mountain lion teeth and claws.
The other evening I was riding through the hills a little closer to dusk than I would have liked. Places where the path passed under clusters of trees, the shadows felt ominous. I cranked my ipod up a little louder.
And then a heavy movement from above my head stopped me in my tracks. I braked quickly and looked up to see a huge owl, wings outsretched, settling into a perch in the branches of a scrub oak.
I shut off my ipod and inched my bike closer to the tree. The owl folded in its gray wings and hunched down between twigs and branches. Two scrappy birds, what my husband calls camp crows, shot out of the tree and began haranguing the owl with a loud and incessant cawing. The owl continued his hunch, hostile and irritated like a grumpy old man. The birds kept squawking at the owl, shouting at him to get up and move. Finally the owl couldn’t stand it any longer and lifted its expansive wings. That simple movement communicated a swiftness and power that belied the sleepiness of the great bird, and I wondered at the crows audacity in hassassing him like they did.
He flew east, and I pedaled in the opposite direction, awed by my encounter with nature – magnificent and rude. I rode the rest of the way home without my ipod, just in case, and when I got home I pulled out OWLS AND OTHER FANTASIES by Mary Oliver. I turned to page 17 and smiled as I read:
I have two feathers from the big owl. One I found near Round Pond; the other, on another day, fell as I watched the bird rise from one tree and flap into another. As the owl rose, some crows caught sight of it, and so began another scrimmage in their long battle. The owl wants to sleep, but the crows pursue it and when it settles a second time the crows – now a dozen – gather around and above it, and scream into its face, with open beaks and wagging tongues. They come dangerously close to its feet, which are huge and quick. The caught crow is a dead crow. But it is not in the nature of crows to hide or cower — it is in their nature to gather and to screech and to gamble in the very tree where death stares at them with molten eyes. What fun, to aggravate the old bomber! What joy, to swipe at the tawny feathers even as the bird puffs and hulks and hisses.
But finally the owl rises from the trees altogether and climbs and floats away, over two or three hills, and the crows go off to some other merriment.
And I walk on, over the shoulder of summer and down across the red-dappled fall; and, when it’s late winter again, out through the far woodlands of the Provincelands, maybe another few hundred miles, looking for the owl’s nest, yes, of course, and looking at everything else along the way.
This is a guest post by my son, Hunter, who is 8:
Driving home down Alpine Highway, a busy road for a quiet town, I stopped when I saw a young mule deer standing at the side of the road. She stood shaded from the mild heat of the late September sun, under the branches of an apple tree that grew along the sidewalk. When we stopped, me and my little passengers, she looked at us with her big black eyes. She didn’t dart away, or even flinch. Instead, she bent her head down to the apples scattered at her feet and took another mouth full.
We watched until we started to worry her. When her ears began to twitch — her large, quivering ears — I lifted my foot from the brake and we rolled slowly away. On our way home my eight year old told us, “If my art teacher had seen that deer he would want to draw it or paint it.”
I had just been treasuring the scene up in my mind, thinking how I would describe it in words. “I want to write about it,” I said. I started to describe the doe to them — the way I pictured her in my mind with the velvety softness of her ears.
My eight year old interrupted me. “How do you know its ears are soft?” He wanted to know. Not to be smart — well, maybe a little, but mostly it was just a part of his habitual fact checking. I had to laugh. He was right. I didn’t know what the doe’s ears felt like. I could suppose, but I couldn’t presume to know. It’s an important distinction. As soon as my writing pretends to know something, tries to make it say more than it can or should, it sounds false. What a great little editor he makes.
I never did sit down and write about my apple-picking mule deer. But I did find this poem by Robert Frost about another grazer taking advantage of September’s surplus:
Something inspires the only cow of late
To make no more of a wall than an open gate,
And think no more of wall-builders than fools,
Her face is flecked with pomace and she drools
A cider syrup. Having tasted fruit,
She scorns a pasture withering to the root.